The Organization for Security and Co-operation for Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly recently held fall meetings in Athens, Greece. I was honoured to be a part of the Canadian delegation that traveled to Athens for these meetings. During my time there, I addressed the Assembly on the issue of climate change and environmental policy, as well as energy security, which have become significant issues for Canadians, but also for many European states.
The OSCE was established in 1975 and currently has 56 member countries that are “all the European states, the United States, and Canada.” Eleven other states from the Mediterranean area and Asia joined as observers and are known as “Partners for Cooperation.” The main objective of the organization is to be a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, and crisis management. It has also been recognized as a regional arrangement under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, which requires that participating United Nations Member states “make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council.”
Many current global issues were discussed in Athens including: natural resources and human security; trade and economic cooperation in the Mediterranean; energy security; and climate change and environmental policy.
In my address to the Assembly, I spoke on Canada’s concerns with respect to climate change and what our Government is doing to achieve a low carbon future. Firstly, we’ve been engaged domestically, continentally, and internationally in negotiating a new Climate Change agreement. Furthermore, we are committed to the target of a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 60 to 70 per cent reduction in green house gas emissions by 2050, relative to 2006 levels. We will aim to ensure that 90 per cent of Canada’s electricity needs will be provided by non-emitting sources, such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal, or wind power by 2020.
Secondly, whether it is internationally through the Copenhagen negotiation process or continentally through the Clean Energy Dialogue between Canada and the United States, we are working to achieve these targets constructively and responsibly, by taking actions that are comparable to those of other industrialized countries in the global fight against climate change.
Thirdly, Canada is a leader in clean energy technology. Our Government is aggressively demonstrating our leadership in this field by committing over $3 billion for large, commercial-scale carbon capture and storage projects, whose technology can ultimately be shared globally. We have also demonstrated our leadership by helping to co-found the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute with a number of fellow OSCE participating states including: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway. This institute will advance the important field of clean energy technology.
Our Government also recognizes that we must balance environmental progress with economic prosperity and that the private sector can have an important role to achieve our goals. Canada is already emphasizing the value of drawing links between the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and economic prosperity by making more than $2 billion in green investments in environmental protection, economic stimulation, and technology transformation as part of its response to the global economic downturn. In addition, we are engaging in public-private partnerships that are designed to leverage private investments and reduce commercial costs of carbon capture and storage.
The OSCE fall meetings proved to be an important and valuable opportunity for all member countries to share and discuss the way forward on climate change and energy security, especially heading into the Copenhagen Conference, in December. Through continued dialogue and discussion, long-term progress and measurable results can be achieved.